Kimchi, South Korea's pungent cabbage dish, gains an index

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 10:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 10:25pm

If the Economist magazine's Big Mac Index is too fattening, South Korea may have the answer with a Kimchi Index tracking the cost of the 13 ingredients in the pungent cabbage dish that has been gaining fans worldwide as a healthy "superfood".

Kimchi-making season has started in the Asian country and a shortage of locally produced cabbage has been enough to trigger hand-wringing editorials and the import of what Koreans regard as inferior Chinese cabbage to make their national dish.

South Korea's agriculture ministry launched the index yesterday, saying that it would be published weekly to alert consumers if prices proved to be "seriously volatile".

"By having a Kimchi Index, consumers can then easily figure out when is the best time to make kimchi," said Choi Jung-rok, the director of the ministry's horticulture industry division.

The Big Mac Index, which was designed by Daniel Ng Yat-chiu, is used as a measure of purchasing power parity across the globe by comparing the cost of a simple and uniform product - a hamburger from McDonald's - in various countries. The South Korean ministry said that its index could also be used overseas, where kimchi is gaining traction.

US first lady Michelle Obama recently tweeted her own kimchi recipe, including Napa cabbage from the White House garden she started, on her FLOTUS Twitter account.

This prompted an avalanche of headlines in South Korea, which uses cultural products ranging from pop music to television dramas to promote the country's image and powerful exporting companies.

South Koreans consume about 2 million tonnes of kimchi a year.

The index, which measures the cost of 13 ingredients to make kimchi, is based on the average price over three years.

Yesterday's index level was 91.3, the lowest since 2009.